For me the most important part of the Black Panthers’ legacy is a belief that one can effect change even when things seem hopeless.
Huey Newton and Bobby Seale cofounded the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in 1966. The party’s Ten Point Platform and Program included demands for freedom, employment, restitution for slavery, decent housing, education, fair trials, and an end to police brutality against black people.
The Black Panthers set themselves apart from other civil rights organizations of the time with their firm belief in their right to defend themselves from racist attacks “by any means necessary,” a position adopted from Malcolm X. Acting legally, they carried loaded guns in public, patrolling police to ensure they treated people of color justly. Those firearms, as well as black berets and leather jackets, visually united the party.
Although notorious for its guns and violent altercations with the police, by the early 1970s, the BPP focused heavily on “survival programs,” providing needs left unfulfilled by the government. Grassroots initiatives included free breakfasts for children, free health clinics, free clothing programs, political education classes, and disease prevention education.
From the exhibition: Give a damn. (June 30 – September 30, 2018)